Jane Horton does not sit still. And she does not let her husband’s combat death keep her from helping military families. If anything, it is her inspiration.
Jane’s husband, Army Spc. Christopher Horton, was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. An intern at the time for Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Oklahoma Republican, Jane was plugged into the legislation and policy world before her husband was killed. About a year after he died, she moved to D.C. to work on policy issues for Gold Star families, and was instrumental in legislation that established an office within each military service for families of the fallen as well as extending the Fry Scholarship to military widows.
And that’s how she ended up late last month on a trip to Afghanistan early this month where she witnessed the U.S. Forces Afghanistan change of command and spoke with service members on behalf of Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Jane is believed to be the first surviving spouse to visit Afghanistan with the U.S. military and the second military spouse to recently go on such a visit. Corie Weathers, the current military spouse of the year, accompanied Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on a trip late last year.
Jane said beyond her official capacity on the trip, she wanted to visit the country where her husband fought and died as a way to keep serving the military in her own way – and to show those who killed her husband that they did not win.
“It was not about going for closure or just because my husband was killed there,” she said. “For me to go over was the most profound thing in my entire life. There’s not much more I could do to fight back against the terrorists who killed my husband that to support our troops. I felt that going over was to show that I’m still strong and they didn’t win.”
Jane said she also wanted to see what it was like downrange – and to feel that same excitement to go that her husband felt before his deployment. She said the experience was less emotional than she expected until the flight home.
“Coming back was when it did hit me a little bit that I got to over and it was an incredible experience and I was treated with such honor and respect, and my husband was the one who gave his life for his country and he came home in a body bag,” she said.
More than anything, Jane said, she wants to show the non-storybook drama side of Gold Star families.
“A lot of people want to do the dramatic story about us. That’s important for people to see, for them to see the sacrifice and the pain that goes with it,” she said. “But it’s more important to see that we want to do something, we want to do something for this country that our husbands fought for and died for, we want to show people that we’ll carry the torch and we’re still strong.”
A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the name of the Senator for whom Jane interned.